Asthanga Yoga ( Raja Yoga)
Adomuka Swanansana Part of the 5th Vinyasa
Ashtanga yoga (Yoga Sutras 2.28-55) is the eight-fold spiritual path to obtain the control of the mind, the state of samadhi and eventual liberation. The eight angas (eight limbs) are the steps or stages of the spiritual path.
There are five external limbs (bahir-anga) and three inner limbs (antar-anga)
- Yama (moral restrictions): non violence (ahimsa), truthfulness (satya), non stealing (asteya), sexual control (brahmacarya) and aparigraha (austerity) (30-31); benefits of the practice of yamas (35-39)
- Niyama (personal disciplines): purity (saucha), contentment (santosha), self-discipline (tapas), self-study (svadhyaya) and devotion to the Lord (Ishvara pranidhana) (32); benefits of the practice of yamas (40-45).
While practicing yamas and niyamas, negative thoughts or habits may appear: the method to control them is by practicing the opposite virtues (pratipakshabhavana) (33-34).
- Asana: steady pose: “posture must be steady and comfortable” (sthiram sukham asanam) (46-48). For spiritual practice, as for any other pursuit in life, a healthy and strong system is also essential. Steady mind presupposes a steady body.
- Pranayama: breath control (49-53).
- Pratyahara: sense withdrawal (54-55).
The last three limbs are the inner limbs (antar-anga).
- Dharana: concentration of the mind on a single object.
- Dhyana: meditation is steady and uninterrupted concentration.
- Samadhi: complete absorption in the object of meditation; at this point the mental operations stop, one achieves supernatural powers (siddhis) which must be overcome by the yogi in order to achieve the knowledge of his true Self: liberation (kaivalya).